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"Hobbit" on stage honors original Tolkien tale in Folsom

By: Don Chaddock, Telegraph Managing Editor
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Join hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Angela Reed), of Bag End in The Shire, as he adventures across Middle Earth with Gandalf (James Van Eaton) and dwarf Thorin (Brady Tait) to reclaim dwarven treasure from the dragon Smaug in ?The Hobbit.? Of course I?m quite familiar with this tale as my well-worn copy of the J.R.R. Tolkien book will attest, but I was entirely unfamiliar with the stage version. As the playbill states, the story was ?dramatized? by Markland Taylor. It begins with Bilbo lazily smoking his pipe and dreaming of dragons, only to awaken to find Gandalf the wizard pressuring him into an adventure. The adventurers run into goblins, trolls, elves a giant spider and Gollum. Considering the scope and magnitude of the tale, I was surprised by how well the story was handled. Sutter Street Theatre is a quaint and cozy setting, so there isn?t a lot of room for massive sets or over-sized costumes, but they still managed to pull off this fantastical tale. Standouts include Perry Vargas in his many supporting roles, but particularly that of Bard. It is his fifth show with Sutter Street Theatre. I was impressed by him in ?Sleepy Hollow? as well. Samantha Watkins was great as Gollum. I even overheard one little girl whisper to her mother, ?I?m scared.? While not really scary, the full body-puppet is well managed by Watkins, who also does a superb job with Gollum?s creepy voice. James Van Eaton breathes life into Gandalf and gives a great performance as Smaug (as the puppeteer and voice). The dragon is definitely oversized, so I was certainly surprised. Brady Tait?s Thorin is grizzled and battle worn, as any good dwarf should be. The real star of the show is Angela Reed as the title character. She also wowed me in ?The Magic Toyshop,? so it?s no wonder I was impressed with her again. All around, the cast is outstanding and director Allen Schmeltz hit it out of the park. It?s a story I?ve loved for years and it was nice to see it told in another form. * * * KNOW AND GO ?The Hobbit? When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, through June 10 Where: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St., Folsom Cost: $17 general, $15 SARTA and seniors, $13 children 12 and under Info: sutterstreettheatre.com, (916) 353-1001 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars